Poetry (and Music) Sunday: Why – do they shut Me out of Heaven?

A Girl with basket of birds

A Girl with basket of birds


Do you ever worry about being unwelcome at Heaven’s gates for misbehavior? Is “singing too loud” cause for exclusion?


Here’s a lovely little poem of Emily Dickinson that asks, “is there a place for me in Heaven, even if I’m not exactly what you had in mind? Can I have a second chance? If our roles were switched,  I’d let you in!”




Why – do they shut Me out of Heaven?

Why – do they shut Me out of Heaven? 
Did I sing – too loud?
But – I can say a little “minor”
Timid as a Bird!

Wouldn’t the Angels try me –
Just – once – more –
Just – see – if I troubled them –
But don’t – shut the door!

Oh, if I – were the Gentleman
In the “White Robe” –
And they – were the little Hand – that knocked –
Could – I – forbid?
F268 (1861)  248

Aaron Copland sets this text in his vocal song cycle, 12 poems of Emily Dickinson (1950).  You can listen to a lovely recording by clicking here. (this text is the third song,  begins at the 5:30 mark)

The question I’m left with is: Who are “they” in the first and penultimate line? I think of the admonition to “Judge not, lest ye be not judged” and wish for a Heaven where God is only as just as necessary and as merciful as possible. And doesn’t mind my loud singing.

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September Visiting Teaching Message- Divine Attributes of Jesus Christ: Powerful and Full of Glory

Link to the message on lds.org here.Lioness Roaring

The main story in this lesson is of Christ raising Lazarus from the dead, which admittedly, is some pretty awesome power. However, as I tried to make a list things Christ did with or through power, I noticed they were quite varied. He had physical power over the elements: calming the waves, turning water to wine, feeding the 5000. He had power to heal the blind and sick. He also spoke calmly and powerfully when scriptural and traditional religious arguments were brought to him. He used his power to push cultural norms and customs when it came to talking with and eating with people of varying social levels. His power included showing emotion, being honest about fears and facing them, and forgiveness.

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A Response: “Disciples and the Defense of Marriage”

Love Makes a FamilyIn the August Ensign, we find an article called “Disciples and the Defense of Marriage” by Elder Russell Nelson, an apostle.

The message of this article feels familiar: if we consider ourselves Disciples of Christ, then we will obey. God’s will is for men and women to be in monogamous, heterosexual (traditional) marriages – and in addition to being in these relationships, we should defend them.

In delivering this message, Elder Nelson uses strong, definitive words like “the most”, “cannot yield”, “warn”, “stern judgment”. And sets up several binaries like “love means obedience”.

Elder Nelson is straightforward in his approach, rather than nuanced. To me the topics of discipleship and marriage are complex, and I would like to add some further ideas to consider.

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Back to the Hive

wasatchI am in Utah. On vacation. Or visiting. Or doing time. It’s complicated.

I have only lived in Utah as a resident for five and then two years – as a college student, and then as a fiance and newlywed. But I have been connected to the state my entire life. My grandparents lived here when I was growing up and now both extended families and many friends dot the Wasatch Front. It should be easy, one-stop shopping for home and nostalgia.

I remember as a kid, living in the Midwest and driving west on Interstate 80 every summer, from Michigan, Illinois, Iowa. And then for a time from California over the Sierra Nevada mountains. The pull to Utah felt epic, as though we were following a path behind a long line of pilgrims, drawn to the mecca, the center of our ethno-religious gravity. I would watch the changing landscape, through endless Nebraska, until the subtle coloring and slopes told me it was Wyoming and I began to get excited. My mother would distract us, pointing out the antelope, encouraging us to keep looking for the mysterious jackalope, but we knew this was just to save her sanity. We were now in proximity to ask the question we had been waiting for: “are we there yet?” Driving in another car years later, going east instead of west, I cried to my new husband: “how can I leave when I have only just settled in?” It did not seem right to move from our families and the place I perceived was home to a deeply held identity.

And yet these are romantic memories. Utah is also a place where I have always been the Other. We were the grandchildren who lived away, showing up to a world of established routines and relationships, always the new kids. I arrived at BYU from “the Mission Field” with frizzy black hair, owlish glasses, and intellectually some (un)holy mix between young Oliver Cowdery and Joan of Arc. Most of my fellow classmates were sporting pink Izod shirts, skirts with tiny whales, and perfect blond bobs. They liked their religion tidy and their education fun. No one wanted to engage in textual discourse with the intense weirdo who made her own clothes and wore Vans shoes with gingham skirts. I was a cultural outsider and profoundly undatable.

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¡Bienvenido! (Welcome!)

As you have noticed, the Exponent has begun to have some of its lesson plans translated into español to share the hearts, minds and stories of women as far and wide as possible.* This post is to introduce one of the español translators who has blessed us with his bilingual talents. Please join us in a belated welcome to César! 

Traducción Inglés/Click for English Translation

Mi nombre es César Carreón Tapia y soy mexicano. Soy mormón desde hace ya 9 años y recientemente me reconocí como un ‘feminista mormón’. Todo comenzó cuando perdí a mi privilegio en la Iglesia por ser gay y asi fue cuando finalmente me di cuenta: Pude ver la desigualdad a la que nos enfrentamos como miembros de la Iglesia, yo creía que no podía hacer nada para ayudar a cambiar el status quo, pero encontré una gran cantidad de apoyo y comprensión de la comunidad de mormones liberales en internet  -el “bloggernacle” – y así fue como llegué a saber sobre The Exponent II. Leí la historia detrás del blog y pensé que podía darle a mis conocimientos de idiomas un buen uso y me ofrecí a traducir los mensajes regulares para las lecciones de la Sociedad de Socorro.


CesarYo había trabajado anteriormente en la traducción de la página web oficial de la Iglesia, The Vineyard, así que tenía un poco de experiencia con la jerga mormona. También participé en la traducción del sitio en español de “Afirmación: Mormones LGBT, Familia y Amigos” y en la traducción de algunas de las Conversaciones de Ordain Women. He encontrado mucho gozo al traducir todos estos materiales a mi lengua materna! Y no sólo por los efectos de la difusión, sino por todas las personas increíbles que he conocido a través de este asignaciones!

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August Young Women Lesson: How can I prepare now to become a righteous wife and mother?

Traducción española/Click for Spanish Translation

This is a very tricky lesson to teach! Be sure to be mindful of those who do not fit the cookie-cutter mould in your branch, ward and/or stake so that the lesson does not border on the offensive or appear to be making judgement of others’ lives, circumstances and choices (to so do this would only undermine the concept of marriage, making the lesson an anti-marriage lesson).


To start, I went and reviewed both the lesson for Young Women (YW) and Young Men (YM)girls leadIt was surprising to me how vastly different the lesson materials were. The YW lessons were in a passive voice, and even included a subsection titled, “Share Experiences,” which heavily contrasts the YM’s “Let the Young Men Lead.” Now, I think sharing experiences is a good thing, but I also think that having the Young Women lead the lesson is also important. When I was a Young Woman, my Mia Maid (MM) teacher always had the MM President begin the meeting. She had the MM President assign someone to conduct, lead, and then turn the time over to her, as the teacher. Her example in this is still one of the most important in my life, because it taught me that I was allowed to be a leader (to peers, at home, etc.). I recommend you do the same in your classes so the YW gain confidence in how to manage people (a very important skill to learn in managing a family, roommates, etc!)


Teacher Preparation:

By this age, (at least for any of the youth classes I have taught in the church) the students already “know” the rote answers they are “supposed to know.” I am a huge fan of digging deeper after they give me the rote answer, by asking them if they agree or disagree with the rote answer that they have been taught and have them supplement their thoughts by asking them “why do you think this is the answer?” and “why might this not be the right answer”. I suggest doing this with the Young Women in your class, thereby encouraging them to think about the answer they are giving. Then ask them if they agree or disagree, and challenge them to develop a testimony of the answer they are giving.

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